Safety and OSHA News

MSHA’s new tactic to issue fines: Watching TV

Usually, a business knows it’s being investigated by OSHA, MSHA, or any other safety agency because the inspector comes to the company’s facility. A recent safety citation shows that’s not always the case.

MSHA issued citations to Cobalt Coal Corp. after watching the debut episode of Coal, a Spike TV show based at the company’s Westchester mine in West Virginia.

Federal inspectors who watched the episode have cited the mine for safety violations, including:

  • using the wrong tool to pull down loose roof rock for a dramatic collapse that was caught on camera, and
  • allowing a worker to walk alongside a continuous mining machine, creating the potential for injury.

It’s the first time MSHA has issued citations based on TV footage.

The show debuted March 30. MSHA issued citations on April 5.

Cobalt’s CEO Mike Crowder says the citations don’t make him sorry that he agreed to the show.

But the recent federal charges aren’t the only ones resulting from the show.

West Virginia’s Officer of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training obtained an advance copy of the first episode and cited Cobalt for similar violations before the show aired.

And MSHA also cited the company for 19 health and safety violations inspectors witnessed during filming of the show which took place from Nov. 9, 2010 to Jan. 21, 2011.

Do you think agencies should be able to fine a company based on video used in a TV show? Let us know what you think in the Comments Box below.

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  • Jason

    First of all, great show. It really gives you an appreciation of what these guys do everyday to make a living and mine resources we all use in some way.

    I think inspectors should be able to use TV footage. Its documented proof. I wonder if Spike TV agreed to pay any fines resulting from the production of the show. Allowing a TV crew to film your operation is a bold move. Especially in a high hazard industry such as this.

    There are a lot of ‘reality’ shows out there today showing a lot of unnecessary risk. Deadliest Catch, Ax Men and even some of the home improvment shows… the list is long and growing. Let me know if anyone sees OSHA is hiring a reality TV watcher ;)

  • John

    Why not? When revenue’s involved, you have to get creative.

  • Don Robinette

    Heck No! Is it even REAL? How can anyone watch television shows and write violations? Is it at the correct angle? Is it in order? Is it staged? Is the violation even in the right mine? Is the depth perception changed? If it is REAL, proof it. TV is not REAL. It never has been because it would be to boring. TV has to be manipulated to be entertaining. That’s TV. MSHA You’re Stupid!

  • NancyNew

    I think it’s valid to use the footage shown over the air, at least as a starting point. If the producers asked that changes in behavior/practice occur to heighten suspense or excitement, there’d be witnesses and documentation of those changes in the production records.

  • PPoor System

    You would think they would have to wear respiratory protection. Hello Black Lung Disease! You can’t see anything on there face but the one guy’s big, extremely white teeth.

  • Doug

    If there are going to fine one show they should look at some others.There are plenty of home improvement show that could use a fine or two. Table saws that do not have the guard in place, untrained people using tools, unprotected edges (fall hazard)—–. You might say it is for the residential construction but it is for commerical company putting on the show for profit. Contractors haver to do the right thing, I think show should to, they are in fact reality shows

  • TLV

    I do not believe citations should be written from viewing the show, but have no problem if an inspection is conducted because of it.

  • Jon B

    Whether or not the inspector was onsite, if they were not following the rules and the inspector can prove it, then why should they get a free pass when anyone else caght doing the same thing would have been cited?